Avian depiction in the earliest Neolithic communities of the Near East

Yosef Garfinkel*, Sarah Krulwich

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


From the Upper Palaeolithic to the present, birds constituted a marginal motif in the extensive corpus of human artistic expression. Only one episode of human history stands out as an exception: the Pre-Pottery Neolithic A of the Near East (c. 9800–8700 BC). During this time, numerous bird representations occur at many sites across the region: Gilgal, Jerf el Ahmar, Mureybet, Nemrik 9, Tell ‘Abr 3, Körtik Tepe and Karahan Tepe. At least four categories of bird imagery are notable: bird figurines, bird statues, miniature bird depictions and monumental bird depictions. Reviewing the available evidence, we suggest that this is related to the momentous transitions from a mobile hunter-gatherer way of life to a sedentary, and ultimately agricultural, economy. As humans moved to permanent settlements, they relinquished much of their mobility and began developing a calendrical agricultural economy. Birds were relevant in both respects. First, their capacity for flight echoed the relinquished mobile mode of living. Second, massive seasonal bird migrations signified the need to keep farming tasks on schedule and closely correlated with the annual cycle.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)133-145
Number of pages13
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • Göbekli Tepe
  • Neolithic Near East
  • Pre-Pottery Neolithic A
  • birds
  • iconography


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